Seven miles beyond Pasagshak, Fossil Beach really is the end of the road if not the end of the world. Beside the road, a massive rusting corrall on a massive scale, with tree-trunk fence posts, must have been for the infamous Pasagshak buffalo. Opposite, the swings of a deserted play area swung in the breeze beside a small cabin with smashed windows.
Next, I passed an old rocket launch site with towering fences, signposts to ‘Area 4’ and an evacuation warning system. Eerie tall, windowless buildings stood incongruously against a background of pristine beaches, blue skies and brilliant sunshine. It all felt a bit Russian and I kept on pedalling.
Bald eagles patrolled the cloudless sky over Fossil Beach, where my fossil hunting was cut short by regular showers of rocks from the overhanging cliff above. Instead, I walked the kelp-strewn tide line, balanced on the sun-bleached tree trunks piled up at the back of the beach and ate M&Ms in the sunshine.
My goal was, of course, to find gray whales and I saw them almost immediately after crossing the headland from Pasagshak. Cresting the ridge after a brutally steep uphill struggle, I had excellent views across the bay. Within 10 seconds of stopping on the side of the road, the first blow — a bright white puff of spray — stood out against the sparkling blue sea. Within a couple of minutes, I’d seen clusters of blows from two other locations and counted at least six whales.
The whales were closer to shore by the time I cycled back from Fossil Beach and I stopped again to watch. This time I could make out the backs of the closest whales as they surfaced, with their barely-there dorsal fins and knuckly peduncles. They were still here and I’d seen them.